The BBC's current obsession with all things Teutonic has spawned a most peculiar mix of programmes over the last few weeks. Don't know if you managed to catch the oddly titled 'Make Me a German' but I found it very interesting viewing. The premise was that a British couple, Justin and Bee Rowlatt, went to live in Germany and lived as the average German family (which meant, in fact, that two of the family's four children had to stay in the UK with grandparents as German families are, on average, smaller than ours). They were renamed with the most common surname, Muller, lived in a typically German (rented) apartment and Justin was given a job in a traditional industry - Faber Castell. The programmers even went so far as to provide a checklist of averages for the family to conform to - for example, what time they should get up, what they should eat and how much housework to do. This was 6.23am, a kilogram of pork each week and an unbelievable 4 hours each day, in case you were wondering.
The programme relied on stereotypes which was bit disappointing but it did leave me pondering on the reasons behind Germany's economic prowess and the differences in attitudes to work, education and family life.
I admired the dedication and loyalty of the workers in the pencil factory many of whom had been taken on on a proper apprenticeship scheme. Apprenticeships in Germany last three years and include training on all aspects of the industry resulting in a multi-skilled, highly-employable worker. Germany has the lowest youth unemployment rate in Europe and 'a job for life' is not an outdated concept. Wouldn't it be brilliant if we offered such schemes to our youngsters and valued practical and technical skills rather than try to push everyone through the same academic hoops. I suppose though, that that's a possibility as Germany is such a manufacturing powerhouse and there was a downside: the programme highlighted the fact that many German workers have sacrificed pay rises for job security.
|In the Faber-Castell factory|
I liked the emphasis on community shown in the programme with the tone-deaf Justin off to a very jolly singing club one evening after work, one of 100 such groups in the area. If there was such a club here to join I suspect that the average age would be 85! By comparison, Justin's wife, Bee, felt she had drawn the short straw when it came to fun in their German experiment. The four hours of housework a day seemed excessive and made me reassess just how much housework I do ('Not enough,' my mother would say and she'd probably be right). On a week day in term time I'm away from the house for around 10 hours which doesn't leave a lot of time for chores and then I want to spend time with the girls which isn't compatible with hoovering! Statistics show that on average in the UK a married woman will do 7 hours housework a week. I think that's probably about my average too though looking at the state of the house you wouldn't think so! Considering the adherence to 'quiet laws' in Germany (basically no noise between 1-3 and in the evenings), and the observance of Sundays as a day of rest (and quiet again), it must be pretty difficult fitting all that housework in.
|(image credit: telegraph.co.uk)|
Well, this has been a much longer post than I intended and you can see it's got me thinking. If you've managed to read this far I'd love to know your thoughts too. If you missed the programme I think you can still watch it here. For now though - Auf Wiedersehen!
Linking up this post, rather belatedly, with Sarah at Hello Wall